North Branch, MN—The musicians were dressed in green and purple, the colors appropriate for the celebrations of St. Urho and St. Patrick, when they performed a concert in North Branch through We R Able. The Spirit River Scandiband, consisting of fiddle, nyckelharpa and autoharp players, presented a repertoire of Irish and Nordic music as part of the Arts Prescription (RX) Concert Series at North Country Coffee. "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling" and "Danny Boy" were two favorites with the audience, as were two waltzes blended together, one Irish and one Swedish.
Group leader Marilyn McGriff presented some background information about St. Urho, a somewhat less familiar saint than the more popular St. Patrick. She also played her nyckelharpa and explained how it worked. Other group members contributed to the set list when the "O'Sundvall" sisters and Denise "Morrismaki" played an Irish tune, followed by Connie "O'Nordlander," who performed a song on the autoharp.
Part of the event included time to reflect on the arts experience for the evening. Each person used a color chart to help determine which
color best represented his or her feelings about the music. Then they shared with a neighbor why they had selected a color and finally made a group quilt of pieces of colored paper.
We R Able provides accessible programs for adults with disabilities ages 14 and up, and the general public. The group has a Facebook page and invites area residents to "like" it and learn about upcoming events. On the agenda for Arts RX is Tony Jambor on April 10. All are welcome. The Scandiband hails from Isanti and Kanabec Counties. To learn more about them, check the Nordic Culture Connection Facebook page.
For those not in the know, the legend of St. Urho originated in northern Minnesota or possibly Virginia as late as the 1950s. Story has it he chased the grasshoppers out of ancient Finland, saving the grape crops and the livelihoods of Finnish vineyard workers. He accomplished the feat by uttering the phrase “Heinäsirkka, heinäsirkka, mene täältä hiiteen (which supposedly simply means “Grasshopper, grasshopper, go to hell!” (hmm, must have been before tha last ice age. Today’s Finnish vineyards use anything but grapes because of the climate.) Be that as it may, the legend has grown among Nordic Americans and the celebration on March 16 in St. Patrick’s green and royal purple is celebrated all over North America and now even in Finland.